What gives a name these gender-dividing (or gender-equalizing) qualities? And more than that — can we predict whether a name is on the verge of switching sides?
Perhaps you think that it shouldn’t matter — that a girl name on a boy shouldn’t be embarrassing — but we all know the harassment that a Haley or Mackenzie (both originally boy names) could endure at the lunch table nowadays. Madison used to be a boy name, but when there are now over 12,000 Madison girls born a year, would you give that name to your son?
And although a boy name on a girl is more often seen as cutesy and off-beat, it can be a real pain (as evidenced by this blogger who recounts all of the explanations, job-interview losses, and even a jail threat because of her typically male name).
Maybe you try to avoid unisex names altogether, or maybe you just don’t care about the “rules” — and that’s absolutely your prerogative — but there are gender changes on the baby-naming front that you might not realize.
Here are the gender-neutral names that are quickly climbing the ranks — many of which are in the process of switching sides or sitting on the fence:
The trend of gender-swapping has a long history, although the boy-names-on-girls saw a sharp spike in the 1970s to 1990s — mostly with the “girls-can-do-anything-boys-can-do” attitude, and quite possibly to give girls a leg-up in the job market. The surname trend also has a history in the South, where family names have traditionally been given to boys and girls for status reasons.
As of right now, male surnames are some of the trendiest names for girls (i.e. Madison, Addison, Kennedy, etc.), but it’s also becoming increasingly more acceptable — trendy, even — for ordinary boy names to be used for a girl. And this is usually because of two reasons: 1) It honors a family member or family name, or 2) parents just like the name (regardless of history or meaning). As for names firmly switching between genders, it seems like pop culture (celebrities, celebrity kids, or fictional characters) have a strong influence on feminizing or masculinizing a name.
More boy names that girls are taking (or have taken) over:
- Avery (still popular for boys, but there were 1776 Avery boys vs. 7303 Avery girls born last year)
- Alexis (although “Alex” hasn’t lost its masculinity — almost equally used for boys and girls)
- Emery (slowly drifting to the girls)
- Riley (still very popular for boys — there were 3427 Riley boys vs. 5002 Riley girls born last year — but it’s heading in the girl direction)
More unisex names holding strong for the boys:
- Angel (popular in the Latin community)
- Casey (falling popularity for both sexes — and I imagine Casey Anthony isn’t helping)
What do you think of unisex names? Do you like boy names on girls? Do you avoid gender-neutral names altogether?